Ok so I have been MIA, I know and I have no excuse. Mostly I have been evaluating what to do with this blog. There are so many of you out there who are entertaining, funny, poignant and altogether gripping that I have been suffering from a bit of performance anxiety and so I have made a decision...
I'm gonna take the plunge and risk offending/annoying or just generally alienating what few readers I have by actually opening up and expressing my real opinions on a variety of issues. I warn you, I like being on a soapbox and I like having my say so I may come to regret this decision when I notice the tumble weed blowing by and the silence becomes deafening :-)
First topic? Parenting under scrutiny. I have recently been involved in a mailing list discussion which has only served to solidify my belief that the discrimination we show each other as parents is criminal. The list comprises of several intelligent, well educated and well rounded individuals. I may not always agree with them but I am usually impressed by their ability to form well researched opinions however the following conversation (edited version) only managed to highlight how objective the whole parenting topic is:
The original topic began with a poll relating to our childhood and whether we had been spanked as children. One of the responses contained the following;
'We've never believed in smacking and they do tend to
behave and are well adjusted. Simply raising our
voices and showing disapproval tends to be enough.
But then again, my wife is a non-working stay-at-home
mum, and gives a lot of time and attention to our kids.
They don't need to misbehave to get our attention.'
I of course immediately got my back up and prepared to fight in my own corner (I am of course a working mother so guilt always forms part of my make-up) and what followed can only be described as messy. The content itself is unimportant, we have all been privy to these kinds of flaming wars and the opinions are widely published but it did make me start thinking about the way we as parents treat one another when our opinions on child rearing vary.
I wrote the following as a response to the conversations and I'd like to know where you'all stand.
'I guess part of the issue for me is that generalisations have a far reaching effect. For example many of you aren't parents[yet] and so most of your opinions/attitudes towards families and family values will come from outside influences. Unfortunately though, unlike most things research will only serve to confuse you further because there are SO many generalisations. It is a minefield of SAHP (Stay at home parent) vs WP (Working parents) but then here are a few more:
Nappies, disposable vs toweling
Feeding, Bottle vs breast
Sleeping, CIO (cry it out) vs Attachment
and many, many more. And for each of these, there are variations in between AND for every variation there is a multitude of people telling you that you are wrong. So when a fellow parents who's opinion I generally respect (if not always agree with) does the very thing that infuriates me about other parents, it gets my back up. I know Chris feels strongly as well and I suspect part of that is that I am very pedantic on this particular issue.
In all honesty, I think that the parenting world has gone mad! Gone are the days when parents compared/competed on the simple things, 'Mary is walking already and she isn't even 1' or 'Joe already knows all his colours and hasn't peed in the bed for months', instead there are charts and rules and objectives and milestones. What I want to know is, who the hell is benefiting from it all? Do you really think that ALL SAHP's provide a stable, welcoming, warm and affectionate upbringing? What about the ones who stifle their children out of fear of the unknown? What about the parents who stay home and drink or get high? What kind of example is that? Equally, there are parents who choose to work 18 hours a day and have a nanny bring their kids up and there are those who do this because they have no choice.
I find it moronic and annoying that we can't just accept that 'we' as parents may be doing something right/wrong and take the credit for having great kids or admit that somewhere something has gone amiss and our kids are a bit loopy instead of relying on the generalisations as an excuse for what we do.
(Edited for anonymity) you and your wife are clearly doing something fantastic in the way you bring your kids up and I salute you for that but I don't for one second think that if you smacked one on the hand just as they were about to grab the serrated knife and cut themselves (after you'd repeatedly told them not to) that it would undermine your good parenting in any way. Equally I don't think that smacking your child for every single thing that they do/don't do will make them disciplined or well behaved.
An excellent point raised was about what kind of values it instills in a child that grows up in a house where getting a hiding is part of the process. In some instances excess does affect you as you become an adult. As does emotional and verbal abuse of any kind. Having said that, children do need to understand anger and that people will sometimes say things which may hurt you. Assuming that removing all forms of physical discipline would somehow protect them from becoming victims of abuse later makes no sense unless you're never going to shout at them or let them leave the house for fear of someone saying something mean to them.
Abuse is a completely separate issue, one that really deserves a whole new thread of its own, but this poll wasn't asking about abuse. It was referring to an article which was about defining the right of a parent and of a child when it comes to smacking so that cases where abuse is an issue would be given priority and dealt with swiftly.
So here is my first BIG opinion post, expect a few more and some funny ones too I hope. At the very least they'll be more frequent.
p.s I am fine, we are fine and surprisingly the past few weeks have been the best thing that could have happened.